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‘Biological Clock’ Researchers Win 2017 Nobel Medicine Prize

Three US-born scientists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young have been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms that control our biological clocks.

According to South China Morning Post reports, the mechanisms help explain issues such as why people who travel long distances over several time zones will usually experience jet lag.

The long distance travelers will also face more risk on their health, where they are more prone to suffer certain diseases.

The Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said in statement that the discoveries made by the three scientists explain how plants, animals and human beings adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronised with the Earth’s revolutions.

The laureates also used fruit flies to isolate a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm and showed how this gene encoded a protein that accumulates in the cell during nighttime and degrades in the morning.

“The clock regulates critical functions such as behaviour, hormone levels, sleep, body temparature and metabolism,” the Assembly said on awarding the prize of 9 million Swedish crowns (RM 4.6 million).

Jet lags happen when the body’s internal clock and external environment move out of sync due to the change of time zones.

The trio were also honoured with the prestigious Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine for their body clock research in Hong Kong back in 2013.

When first told of the Nobel Award, Rosbash stood silence as he was in shock, and later said, “you are kidding me”.

Every year, medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded, and the prizes of achievements in science, literature and peace that were established in accordance with the will of the inventor of dynamite and businessman, Alfred Nobel have been awarded since 1901.

Scientific greats such as Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered pennicilin, and Karl Landsteiner, whose identification of separate blood types opened the path to carrying out safe transfusions were among the recipients of the Nobel Prize for medicine.

The prize has also been awarded to individuals who made controversial discoveries, such as the 1948 award for the discovery of a chemical that helped battle epidemics but was then banned due to its harmful environmental impact, known as the DDT.

In fact, a Japanese biologist, Yoshinori Ohsumi won the prestigious prize for hsi work on autophagy, a process where cells “eat themselves” and can cause Parkinson’s and diabetes when disrupted.


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